Morphosyntax of non-standard constructions with to čto in Colloquial Russian

2019. №5, 41-72

Natalia V. Serdobolskaya a,
Anastasiya D. Egorova b
a Russian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Linguistics, Moscow, Russia;
Moscow Pedagogical State University, Moscow, Russia;;
b Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia


The paper presents a corpus study of non-normative constructions with to čto in Colloquial Russian. These constructions are not only used in subordination, they can also occur as a head of an independent sentence; in clauses that are linked to another clause by the rhetorical relation of Topic, Background or Cause; in constructions to, čto kasaetsja / nazyvaetsja / sčitaetsja. In this paper we try to determine the factors that restrict the use of these constructions in sentential complementation: the semantics of the dependent clause (fact, event and other semantic types of complement clauses); the lexico-syntactic factor (the argument structure of the complement-taking predicate), stylistics and sociolinguistic characteristics of the speaker. We consider the constructions with to čto without the correlate (dumaju to čto) and with the correlate (dovolen tem to čto) separately.
We show that the non-normative to čto is used in all the basic semantic types of complements – propositions, events and irrealis complements. The use of the construction in question is not restricted by the argument structure of the complement-taking predicate or preposition. The data of the corpus show that native speakers using to čto with predicates taking nominative / accusative complements also use it in indirect object positions (note that the component to does not take the indirect case marking). The construction with the correlate is case-assigned by the complement-taking predicate (dovolen tem to čto) and it is only used by native speakers that largely use to čto as a complementizer (frequent users of to čto). The complement clause with to čto is usually postposed to the matrix clause, like the complement clause with čto. In general, the non-normative to čto occurs in the same complement clauses as the normative čto. However, there are contexts where the former is possible, unlike the latter: complement clauses with causative emotive predicates with animate stimuli; with predicates only allowing the standard to, čto and others.

For citation:

Serdobolskaya N. V., Egorova A. D. Morphosyntax of non-standard constructions with to čto in Colloquial Russian. Voprosy Jazykoznanija, 2019, 5: 41–72.


The study is supported by the RSF grant No. 16-18-02003 (Moscow Pedagogical State University). The authors are extremely grateful to the anonymous reviewers and to the participants of the 5th conference “The Russian language: Construction-based and lexico-semantic approaches” (St. Petersburg, 11–12 October 2017) for their helpful comments and remarks.